Improvements to North Side Transit


Coming home, I’ve had the chance to see Chicago with some fresh perspectives. I have been ruminating a lot on how transportation could be improved on the city’s North/Northwest Side where I live. So far, these are some ideas I’ve come up with. None is particularly innovative, but I think they would all go a long way in improving how people get to and from and around this part of the city.


Example of BPL in Washington, DC that preserves one parking lane. Source:

  1. Irving Park BRT or LTR: Although BRT is a cheaper choice, any discussion of BRT or LTR in Chicago needs to look at east-west corridors; getting into the Loop and moving north-south is significantly easier than moving east-west. East-west routes would significantly improve transit for commuters and day-to-day users alike, especially by connecting residents on west side neighborhoods with the lakefront. Irving Park Road is a valuable street for this upgrade: it’s wide enough for dedicated lanes, provides direct transfers to the Blue and Brown Lines and UP Northwest Metra. The downside is the current Irving Park bus (80) doesn’t directly connect to the Red Line and it’s ridership is modest at about 14,000 weekday boardings indicating the route might not have the best ridership potential. The population density along the route, mostly above 9,000/m2, is a healthy density to support transit use however. Better service would likely draw greater ridership and support greater economic investment in neighborhoods like Old Irving Park, Portage Park, Six Corners, and North Center. Estimated Cost: $100-110 million (BRT); $500 million plus (LTR)

    Foster Ave BPLs

    Map showing path of proposed Foster Ave. BPL from Milwaukee Avenue to the lakefront with other trail projects and proposals shown. Purple paths show segments that could be built as shared streets.

  2. Reorganize North Central Avenue Bus Routes: North from the Jefferson Park Transit Center four bus routes use along Central Avenue from Milwaukee Avenue to Lehigh and Devon Avenues and north. The number of routes would suggest this is a strong transit corridor, but the route’s destinations and frequency and the location of stops only make it appear busy on a map. Reorganizing the routes that go through this corridor, coordinating services, improving frequencies, and consolidating stops would go a long way to improving how people get to and from the Northwest Side and North Suburbs:
    • Eliminate Pace Bus 225: The bus has low ridership that’s falling and basically goes nowhere.
    • Eliminate Pace Bus 226: This bus connects Jefferson Park to Des Plaines via Oakton. It is not a totally impractical route, but Jefferson Park is more quickly connected to Des Plaines via the UP Northwest Metra (more Metra service would make sense though). Eliminate this route and introduce a Oakton bus that goes east-west, transfer free from Des Plaines to Rogers Park on Chicago’s North Side, replacing the two buses that run on Oakton now and require a transfer at Lincoln in Skokie to travel the entire street.
    • Reroute 85A, Part 1: The current 85A loops around Wildwood to and from Jefferson Park and back. Rather, it could head north on Caldwell as it does now and continue via Waukegan Road to Downtown Glenview or The Glen.
    • Reroute 85A, Part 2: Like on Oakton, there is no single, transfer-free route between to Old Orchard in Skokie via Downtown Skokie from Jefferson Park. A true North Central bus route would run the entire distance of Central/Niles Center Road between Jefferson Park, Edgebrook, Niles, Downtown Skokie and Old Orchard connecting the Blue and Yellow Lines and the UP Northwest and Milwaukee North Metra lines.
    • Reroute 84: Depending on the frequency of the two new/rerouted buses mentioned above, it may or may not also be worthwhile to terminate the Peterson 84 bus at Jefferson Park and not at Caldwell/Devon in Edgebrook. The bus would follow the same route, but allow for transfer-free connections from Edgebrook, Sauganash, and North Park, to the Blue Line and UP Northwest. This would provide direct connections between the Red and Blue Lines at Jefferson Park on three bus routes.

      North Side Transit Improvements

      This map shows the collective whole of proposed improvements as well as complete Pace Pulse proposal. Red = reorganized bus routes; Green = extended 84 Peterson bus; Orange = Lawrence and Devon ART; Sky Blue = Foster BPL; Purple (dashed) = Other Pace Pulse

  3. Devon and Lawrence Avenues ART: Lawrence desperately needs transit improvements. Sadly, the street probably isn’t appropriate for BRT. However, Pace, Chicago’s suburban bus service’s ART program (arterial rapid transit) provides a model to continue to improve service on Lawrence. This model should also be expanded to Devon from the Loyola Red Line to the O’Hare Transportation Center to create a high(er) quality direct connection to the airport from the city’s Far North Side.
    • To improve service on Lawrence, an important corridor between Jefferson Park and Uptown, which connects the Red, Brown and Blue Lines as well as the UP North and UP Northwest, a road diet should be included as part of developing an ART bus route (i.e. curb bump-outs at intersections and pedestrian islands where possible), as well as bumped out bus stops, consolidation of bus stops, prepaid boarding (like BRT, but without dedicated lanes), and signal prioritization.
    • Along Devon Avenue, much improvement comes from simply creating a bus route from Rogers Park to O’Hare in addition to the neighborhood circulator 155 Devon bus. While the same level of improvements along Lawrence might not be necessary on Devon, designing the route with stops only every half mile, prepaid boarding at heavily used stops, and signal prioritization at highly congested intersections would go a long way in keeping travel times down to approximately 30 minutes. For perspective, an 11 A.M. transit trip from Loyola to O’Hare takes close to 90 minutes; the Pace Dempster bus takes 50 minutes to cover the same amount of ground as a Devon bus would by comparison.
    • A Devon ART could be supplemented by extending the Devon 155 bus from its current western terminus at Kedzie/Devon to Harlem during weekday rush-hour.

One thought on “Improvements to North Side Transit

  1. Pingback: A Bus Oriented Transit Future | urbanelijk

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